Synopses & Reviews
One of the most written-about literary figures in the past decade, Arthur Rimbaud left few traces when he abandoned poetry at age twenty-one and disappeared into the African desert. Although the dozen biographies devoted to Rimbauds life depend on one main source for information—his own correspondence—a complete edition of these remarkable letters has never been published in English. Until now.
A moving document of decline, Rimbauds letters begin with the enthusiastic artistic pronouncements of a fifteen-year-old genius, and end with the bitter what-ifs of a man whose life has slipped disastrously away. But whether soapboxing on the essence of art, or struggling under the yoke of self-imposed exile in the desert of his later years, Rimbaud was incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence. As translator and editor Wyatt Mason makes clear in his engaging Introduction, the letters reveal a Rimbaud very different from our expectations. Rimbaud—presented by many biographers as a bohemian wild man—is unveiled as “diligent in his pursuit of his goals . . . wildly, soberly ambitious, in poetry, in everything.”
I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud is the second and final volume in Masons authoritative presentation of Rimbauds writings. Called by Edward Hirsch “the definitive translation for our time,” Masons first volume, Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library, 2002), brought Rimbauds poetry and prose into vivid focus. In I Promise to Be Good, Mason adds the missing epistolary pieces to our picture of Rimbaud. “These letters,” he writes, “are proofs in all their variety—of impudence and precocity, of tenderness and rage—for the existence of Arthur Rimbaud.” I Promise to Be Good allows English-language readers to see with new eyes one of the most extraordinary poets in history.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
The poetic genius of Arthur Rimbaud
(1854–1891) blossomed early and burned briefly. Nearly all of his work was composed when he was in his teens. During the century following his death at thirty-seven, Rimbaud’s work and life have influenced generations of readers and writers. Radical in its day, Rimbaud’s writing took some of the first and most fundamental steps toward the liberation of poetry from the formal constraints of its history, and now represents one of the most powerful and enduring bodies of poetic expression in human history.
Wyatt Mason has translated the works of various contemporary French writers, and has been a finalist for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. His translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetical and prose works, Rimbaud Complete, appeared in 2002 from the Modern Library. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, and the Los Angeles Times. He was named a fellow of the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers for 2003–2004. His current projects include a new translation of Dante’s La Vita Nuova, for the Modern Library. He is also at work on a translation of the essays of Michel de Montaigne.
From the Hardcover edition.